A chance meeting with an acquaintance who worked at Melbourne publisher Black Dog Books saw Stella Tzobanakis spend two years
of her life writing the book Creforce:The Anzacs and the Battle of
Black Dog was looking for an author to write the fourth in the Drum series of books on Australians at war for teen audiences.
So having a Greek Australian of Cretan background with experience in a range of writing fall into their laps was perfect given they were interested in having an addition to the Drum series which dealt with the experience of the ANZACS in Crete during the Second World War.
Stella Tzobanakis spent two years researching the Battle of Crete and undertook extensive interviews with a Cretan who had lived through the Battle of Crete as well as an Australian soldier who had served with the Australian forces in Crete.
Writing and researching Creforce: The Anzacs and the Battle of Crete was a challenge for Tzobanakis.
“It was a difficult task to put together all the relevant information,” she said.
After all, the series of books is designed to be light and accessible to a teen audience.
The book features all the elements that teenagers like in wartime books: prisoners of war, escape, rebellion, romance, partisans. It will satisfy the rebellious spirit in every teen.
Trying to tell the the story of the Battle of Crete through the eyes and the experience of an Australian soldier was challenging.
However Tzobanakis was intent on emphasizing the enduring friendship that exists between the Cretans and the Allied forces who served in Crete with a touch of humour.
She also wanted to bring alive the incredible bravery shown by the Australian and New Zealand soldiers and by the people of Crete who risked their own lives by harbouring these soldiers during the invasion of Germany in World War.
The process of writing the book also triggered a very personal journey for Tzobanakis, a journey which started with her trip to Crete as a 15 year old and which continued through her writing of the book as an adult.
In the prologue to the book Tzobanakis talks of her discovering the Suda Bay War Cemetery and its connection to Australia and how saw her embark on a journey which continued with the writing of the book.
Tzobanakis makes clear that in writing the book she has discovered a very deep connection with parents and her parents homeland of Crete.
“I discovered about my own family. My father’s life in the village. Things I did not know. You see our parent’s tend to hide all these experiences, either because they are painful or because they think that think we do not care about them.”
The experience has also transformed how she views Crete.
“I used to see a landscape at my dad’s village and its was just a landscape. Now the mountain over Kokino Chorio’ has a historical significance. It was the German’s lookout.”
Creforce: The Anzacs and the Battle of Crete will be on sale in time for Anzac Day. The other titles in the series are Scarecrow Army, Red Haze, and Kokoda Track: 101 Days.